What does a young woman do when she falls in love with a vampire? This cinematic story of forbidden love faithfully brings to life Stephanie Meyer's best-selling young adult novel, Twilight, in dark and dramatic fashion, capturing on film the often overwrought emotions and myopia the teens verbosely—and awkwardly—expressed in print.
The opening scene that depicts the frenzied flight of the hunted being pursued by an unknown but familiar hunter sets the heart-racing tone of the film. This hunt scene is repeated throughout the movie, with the roles of predator and prey shifting and changing, until the prey becomes the heroine of the story, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a beautiful and intelligent yet self-conscious teen recently transplanted from warm and sunny Phoenix to a distinctly opposite Forks, Washington. While tension and drama permeates the almost 500-page book, the movie (screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg; directed by Catherine Hardwicke) brings the sinister elements to the forefront, and reminds us at regular intervals that this is not just a teenage love story, this is life and death.
Histrionics aside, Bella and Edward's (Robert Pattinson) story is a love story, and a First Love story at that. The book, which invites the reader inside Bella's tormented mind that is full of apprehension and conflicting emotion, lays the foundation for the drama and action. The viewer, on the other hand, while spared Bella's whining, self-effacing professions of unworthiness, finds it difficult to understand why a cold-phobic, klutzy loner so willingly snuggles up to a ridiculously pale, brooding boy who is as hard as marble and as cold as ice. And snuggle is about the extent of their passion, making the first installment in the series a safe bet for teens and tweens intimidated by physical relationships.
What is easier to believe is how Bella comes to think of Forks as home. The Pacific Northwest scenery is stunning. The portrayal of the speed and agility of the vampires is awkward, but the viewer is doesn't care; the majesty of the trees and the vibrant green of the lush landscape lures and enchants. Forks High School, with the crushes, jealousies, and angst, is an evocative experience.
The supporting cast shines. Scene-stealers include Anna Kendrick as Jessica, Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, and Billy Burke as Chief Swan. The soundtrack, featuring gritty music by Muse, Paramore, and Linkin Park hits just the right note.
We are told from the start that Bella and Edward's love is impossible, and we come to see that their choice to be together will have deadly consequences. Bella realizes her choice is irrevocable as she and Edward flee into the night. There is a hunter in the darkness, and she is the prey. As their exodus begins, Bella and Edward drive past a restaurant just as Bella's girlfriends spill out. Their laughing faces are illuminated by the street lamp, and as they casually put their arms around each other, it is the picture of teenage-hood. Normalcy. For Bella, it is as if she's witnessing an alien landscape; no flicker of longing, or even recognition, flashes across her face. They drive on, hoping for a safe escape.
And that is what cinematic entertainment is about. Escape. Think back to the meadow, where Bella and Edward fall more deeply in love. The sun's rays fall on the two figures: she, with her human vulnerabilities and immortal aspirations; he, with the glinting skin of a killer, but the sensibilities of a romantic. When the sun is shining, it is easier to believe in the impossible. What girl wouldn't want her very own sparkly vegetarian vampire? If offered a beautiful, delicious, aromatic piece of forbidden fruit, would you bite?